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Terrence Malick Preparing Six-Hour Cut of ‘The Tree of Life’

Posted by , on June 16, 2011 at 11:22 pm 

With Terrence Malick‘s Palme d’Or winner The Tree of Life officially David Fincher and Christopher Nolan-approved, you may think he has hit the pinnacle of filmmaking and will call it quits. That is not the case, as he seems to have reached the busiest point in his sporadic career. There is his very experimental untitled romantic drama starring Ben Affleck and Rachel McAdams, then his IMAX supplement to The Tree of Life, The Voyage of Time. Then we recently reported there is another project he may be gearing up for this summer/fall. But with The Tree of Life clocking in at just 2 hours and 18 minutes, a tad short compared to his recent features, there may be more than we expected.

One of the most illustrious film magazines on the face of the earth, Les Cahiers du Cinéma, got a chance to talk to The Tree of Life team (minus Malick of course), and a fascinating detail emerged. Translated by nlvg of IMDb, cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (reportedly on the set of Alfonso Cuaron‘s currently shooting Gravity), revealed that after an initial cut of eight hours, Malick is currently in the process of making a six-hour version of the film. The additions would mostly focus on the middle portion of the film where we follow Jack (Hunter McCracken) as he grows up in 1950s Texas under the guidance of Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain’s characters. Check out the translated excerpt below.

Does Malick think about editing when he’s filming ?

We speak about it almost everytime. But most of the ideas about the editing we share on the set don’t make the final cut.

We maybe have been shot 600.000 metres (around 370 miles) of film.

The first cut was 8 hours long. Terry is working on/preparing a 6 hours long version of the movie. What I’ve seen (of this) is absolutely incredible, it’s wonderful. The longer version will have to/will likely, for the most part, relate to the children part. There were outstanding things, we’ve shot many, many things about Jack’s childhood : his friends, his evolution, his changes, his awareness of the loss of his childhood. I don’t know if I’m supposed to say all of this !

There you have it. It comes to no surprise that Malick is still tinkering with the film. After all, with The Thin Red Line he ended up cutting out Billy Bob Thornton, Martin Sheen, Gary Oldman, Bill Pullman, Lukas Haas, Viggo Mortensen and Mickey Rourke from the film when he reduced it from five/six hours to its current runtime. I can’t imagine there any special cameos tucked away in this expanded version of The Tree of Life, but the sequence he is talking about extending is one of the most magical things I’ve ever witnessed in a theater. He is able to convey an entire childhood of memories in the span of ninety minutes or so. I can’t imagine the experience he could deliver if he multiplied that by five or six.

As for his next films, producer Dede Garner re-confirmed that The Voyage of Time is happening and they are currently working on the film Malick “has designed for IMAX theaters.” When asked about his untitled romantic drama, Lubezki reiterated the experimental style, saying “he [Malick] tries to move away from all the things cinema depends on…and he tries to find the purest way to make films.” His next film “isn’t more abstract, but it tries to be pure cinema. It is even less narrative, in the dramatic sense, than The Tree of Life. The method we use is more and more risky, perilous, destructive.” Count me in. Stay tuned for updates on all of Malick’s projects, even a possible extended edition of The Tree of Life.

You can see The Tree of Life in its current form in limited theaters, with a wide expansion on July 8th.

What do you think of an overhauled version of the film? Would you see it?


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